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The Museum at FIT’s Force of Nature

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Currently on display at the Museum of FIT is the exhibition “Force of Nature”. It explores the inspiration nature and science lends to fashion designers. The animals, weather, plants and foreign landscapes that were discovered in the 18th and 19th centuries inspired not only the scientists and writers of the day but the designers as well. Some designers took literal interpretations of nature while others simply referenced it. It also takes a look at how the fashion industry has made and is making changes that respect the environment.

Through the collection of garments, textiles, accessories and prints viewers can see how men and women’s fashion was and is inspired by nature. During the time of Enlightenment there was a surge of botanic gardens in society. This inspired designers to create textiles and fashions inspired by flowers. While the discovery of different animals also changed the way people used prints. In the wild animals use their spots to camofloufge themselves but designers use them in bold designs.

Animals like caterpillars and butterflies that have the ability of transformation which also inspire designers. Fashions that transformed women into flower or bird like forms are the result. The theory of attraction in the wild also stirred up new ideas for creators of the arts.

The Network of Nature

Naturalist and father of ecology Alexander von Humboldt realized how nature was intertwined with society. He also believed that an artists interpretation of nature was paramount in understanding it. Forms of diversity and creativity were created and inspired because of nature.

Museum at FIT

Dress: Circa 1888, Mrs. M.A. O’Connell. During this time period Ferns were a popular plant. Being so the collection of ferns as a hobby and clothing with fern prints like this dress were very popular.
The mens vest consist of a print of coiled Ferns. Waistcoat circa 1870.

Museum at FIT

Robe a la francaise 1760-1175. This print consists of bouquets of carnations and peonies. While the fringe detail resemble flower buds. These French robes were known for their floral textiles. They became metaphors for women as flowers.

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Alexander McQueen, Evening Dress from the Irere Collection 2003. Birds and their symbolism of transformation were inspiring for McQueen. For this dress the colorful Scarlet Macaw and its feathers are what inspired him.

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Early 1960’s, Milliner unknown.
The hat is created with flexible feathers. Inspired by exotic birds.

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Arzu Kaprol Evening ensemble Fall 2014. The graphic print of charges of electricity and the sculptural form of the gown and jacket all invoke power and strength. Inspired by the power of a lightning storm.

 

The Botanic Garden

Enlightenment and the discovery of exotic plants in foreign lands introduced the creation of the botanic garden in Europe. The public became fascinated with the new plant life and were curious to learn more. The botanic garden was a place were all social classes could view these new discoveries. By the 19th century these gardens became known as laboratories for scientific discoveries as well as beautiful gardens.

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Dress 1830-1833. This dress translates the connection the public made with women as flowers. The theme of romanticism and flower metaphors were trending topics in 19th century literature.

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Bonnet 1845, USA
The flowers are purposefully placed around the wearers face. Creating the feeling of being surrounded by nature.

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Circa 1790 Mens Jacket and Waistcoat. The floral embroidery is meant to invoke the sensual spirit of reproduction in plants. Inspired by the Poem “The Love of Plants” (1789).
Circa 1775 Women’s Robe a l’anglaise wool and linen dress with silk embroidery. Fabric designer Anna Maria Garthwaite was inspired by plants and was considered just as educated in natural sciences as her male counterparts.

 

Investigating Nature

The discovery and study of nature was intensive for people of the Victorian era. The use of cataloging and the organization of all findings was important. With the invention of the microscope naturalists like Ernst Haeckel and scientists educated and influenced the public and arts. Haeckel, also an artists created prints and art inspired by his discoveries.

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Left Bill Blass 1975. Inspired by the symmetry in plants like flowers.
Oscar de la Renta 1992. Inspired by coral reefs.
ThreeASFOUR :Dress 2016. Inspired by fractual patterns in nature.

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Left: Jeanne Lanvin Evening Dress circa 1930. The scalloped overlays resemble fish scales. Asian culture like the Arowana fish inspired Lanvin.
Right: Christian Dior Spring 1954. This dress is inspired by the symmetry of organisms.

 

The Aviary

Birds symbolize transformation, freedom, honor and grace amoung other things. Throughout history they were used in art, literature and folklore in many cultures. While their feathers were seen as mysterious for people of the past, they are inspirational for today’s designers.

Museum at FIT

Alexander McQueen 2009
Horn of Plenty Collection. The pattern resembles feathers, while the bustle a tail.

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Cape and hair comb 1960’s courtesy of Photographer Bill Cunningham.
Balenciaga evening dress 1967. Balenciaga minimalist style of the time is evident in the form of the dress while the ostrich feathers create an abstract element.

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Gabrielle Chanel (Chanel) 1927 evening cape. Although feathers were already being used in extravagant forms such as hats, Chanel chose to remain more subdued with this cape of silk made feathers.

 

Metamorphosis

The discovery that caterpillars turned into butterflies was in 1830’s Chile by German naturalist Renous. Because he did not get a chance to unveil his findings he was arrested because people did not believe him. The butterflies were not seen as a natural transformation but a trick. The act of transformation and the ability of fashion to transform a person has inspired designers.

Museum at FIT

Left :Elsa Schiaparelli 1937
Butterflies were a surrealist symbol for deaths and transformation. As a surrealist designer Schiaparelli used metamorphosis to translate beauty emerging from the ordinary.
Right: Thierry Muglerr : Evening dress 1989. Mugler known as the “master of metamorphosis” created his 1989 collection based on the city of Atlantis and mermaids.

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Charles James “La Sirene” evening dress 1940. Known as the Lobster dress the tucks and folds resemble a spine like that of a lobster.

 

 

 

 

Into the Wild

The patterns that camouflage animals in the wild for their self preservation inspire designers to create bold prints that attract the eye. The exotic and at times sensual appeal of animal patterns come from ancient folklore.

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Rudi Gernreich 1966. These patterned outfits were meant to be like second skins. The complete transformation included gloves, underwear, hoods and shoes.

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Physical Forces

The study of nature and energy both in small particles and entire galaxies known as physics has inspired society and the arts. These studies lead to the creation of meteorology, astronomy, electromagnetism and many other fields of scientific study.

Museum at FIT

Left: Yvonne May Evening Coat circa 1920. The inspiration for his coat was comets. The sparkle adds to the look of movement.
Right: Saks Fifth Ave cocktail dress 1953. The rhinestones on the dress imitate a galaxy of stars.
Behind: Rodler upholstery fabric 1928. This fabric used for the seats on an airplane showcases the theory of the Big Bang.

 

Fashioning a Future

In the past fashion was created with little to no knowledge or realization on how it was affecting nature. However over the years designers and fashion companies have begun to create sustainable fashion. Kering the parent company of the brands Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, Puma and more has made it their mission to reduce the environmental impact their brands have. With guidance from the UN Sustainable Development Goals Kering has created reachable targets of positive global environmental and social impacts by 2025. With their three strategies of Care, Collaborate and Create these brands can change the way fashion is created. Among other streams of creativity and science these brands can care for the planet through cleaner supply chains. They can collaborate with craftsmen and leading universities that identify sustainable solutions. Lastly they can create using innovative technology like biotech.

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Speedo Fastskin II 2011. This suit mimics sharkskin to increase speed in the water. The ridges in the suit imitate sharks dermal denials.
The Last Explorer: Black Magic suit. The suits waterproof technology allows water to roll off the material like a ducks feathers.
Bolt threads necktie 2017. Made of synthetic spider silk, the first of its kind ever created. The first one created was given to Spider-Man creator Stan Lee.

Museum at FIT

Stella McCartney dress Resort 2017. Made of sustainable viscose.
J-Crew t-shirt, 2017. This shirt was created to raise awareness on the diminishing population of bees. Part of sales went to the Xerces Society an invertebrate conservation system.

 

 

 

The Science of Attraction

In 1859 Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species”. This controversial theory of evolution and his later work ” The Descent of Man” which focused on sexual selection and beauty influenced the arts. In the end one of his conclusions was that both animals and humans loved beauty.

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Right:Mme. Pauline Hat circa 1955. This Women’s hat is created with male bird feathers.
Left: Commes des Garcons 1985. The hat is inspired by a nest created by weaver birds. These birds construct elaborate nests to attract female mates.

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Hat 1939.
Halston Ensemble 1965.
Inspired by the Scarlet Tanager bird whose red communicates sexual desire to the female bird.

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Helene hat circa 1953 feathers and wool. This hat was inspired by Peacocks. Female Peacocks select males based on their feathers and usually pick mates with the most amount of feathers.

 

The Language of Flowers

During the 19th century books were published that explored the “language of flowers”. They surmised that specific species and colors held symbolic meanings. This influenced the exchange of different colored bouquets as coded meanings to and from lovers and couples. As a reproductive organ flowers also represented human sexuality.

Mueseum at FIT

Dress circa 1905- France.
Hand colored Irises were applied to the cut-work of the dress. Irises were a popular design in the Art Nouveau time period.

Mueum at FIT

Charles James : “The Tree” evening dress, 1955. With “The Petal” evening stole.
The petal like stole is meant to transform the wearer into a flower. Charles often thought of his clients as sensual flowers and believed fashion should evoke that emotion.

It was interesting to learn about all ways in which nature and science have influenced fashion. As we look at today’s fashion we don’t realize how influential nature has been. This exhibition is a great reminder of how much nature has and continues to inspire us. Stay tuned to my Instagram for more pictures throughout the week. Force of Nature is on display at the Museum at FIT through November 18th.

T.S.

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Joleene Moody
    July 10, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    What an incredible display! It’s so fun to see all of the changes and cultures. We’ll have to find our way here sometime soon!

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 12, 2017 at 1:44 am

      Yes the Museum at FIT is a smaller one but really shows you what’s happening in the industry in the future, now and in the past.

  • Reply
    Magaly
    July 10, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    I never really thought about how much nature has inspired fashion… I can’t see this live but I loved being able to enjoy your pictures!

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 12, 2017 at 1:42 am

      Thank you for reading! That is a driving force of my blog bringing NYC to people who can’t here.

  • Reply
    michele
    July 10, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Physical forces and that Stella McCartney ensemble! Wow! Thanks for bringing us along.

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 12, 2017 at 1:41 am

      Thank You for reading! Isn’t that a great piece!

  • Reply
    Jenna Colgrove
    July 11, 2017 at 1:53 am

    what an interesting visit!! love this post!

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 12, 2017 at 1:41 am

      Thank You!!

  • Reply
    Corey | The Nostalgia Diaries
    July 11, 2017 at 5:30 am

    This looks like an incredible show. This pieces are stunning!

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 12, 2017 at 1:40 am

      They did a great job!

  • Reply
    Delphine
    July 11, 2017 at 8:55 am

    I love a costume museum! There is a fantastic one in Bath, in the south of England. If I go back to New York (which is now well overdue), I will make sure I visit this museum.

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 12, 2017 at 1:40 am

      O that is something I have to see! Yes its a small one but they do great exhibitions!

  • Reply
    Danay
    July 15, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    What an interesting exhibit. Thank you so much for bringing it to the masses from your point of view. I have to say that seeing Alexander McQueen’s work in the exhibit solidifies why I love his stuff.

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 19, 2017 at 2:09 am

      I studied his work while I was in college a lot. I was very intrigued on his views of fashion and his ability to translate what happened in history or current through his work. Much of which took darker turns but were just as beautiful!

  • Reply
    Fabiola Rodriguez
    July 16, 2017 at 1:29 am

    What is most interesting to me here is the exhibit on sustainable fashion. We definitely need more of that!

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 19, 2017 at 2:11 am

      Yes we do. I noticed we are still learning, but what’s out there so far is pretty cool!!

  • Reply
    Marisa
    July 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Wowm how awesome. I absolutely love vintage clothing. Its so amazing to see all the styles & fabrics. What a great experience 💚

    • Reply
      tabithas6493
      July 19, 2017 at 2:13 am

      It is! I love looking at all the historical pieces, takes you back in time!

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